The Enemy of Our Enemies

September 18, 2018:

As promised, Angela hunts down Jackie following the fight in the park. They, and the Darkness, come to an agreement. The evilness of Choco Tacos is established.

Little Italy, NYC

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It's a dreary Monday afternoon in Little Italy. Autumn is trying its best to arrive in the city, but it's mostly manifesting as humidity and rain. The good part of fall is still a few weeks away. This is the awful half-spoiled leftovers of summer.

Jackie Estacado, the ruler of the remnants of the Franchetti organization, holds court in an eternally scaffold-covered barber shop next to a deli on a narrow street in Little Italy. Eternal construction has made this portion of the block nigh-inaccessible to outsiders. It only takes a little old-fashioned corruption to keep the street bookended with orange barrels, concrete bollards and other obstructions to create a mob fortress in plain sight.

Jackie is seated in a barber's chair away from the window, his back to a corner in the dimly-lit shop. He's wearing a fine white linen shirt and sharply creased pinstriped black slacks, though his shoes are off so to get the benefit of propping up his feet. (Today's expensive dress socks are purple.) Jackie is reading the New York Post while drinking some Turkish coffee from the deli down the street. As always, a few made men are loafing about in the front end of the shop, smoking and screwing around on their phones.

Some barbering probably happens here at some point during the day, but not at present. You probably have to know somebody to get a haircut here.


It's spitting rain outside, a periodic drizzle that comes with half-hearted cloud cover. Overcast one moment, sunny the next, a cycle of everything getting damp and then the sun heating it right up. It's no time to be walking around in any kind of clothing you respect.

This is why it may be a minor puzzle when there is a knock at the barber shop's front door, and outside is a dreadfully familiar tall woman with a mane of red hair. The puzzle is that her hair retains the majestic volume that the adventure in the moonlight murder park from weeks ago only hinted at. The moonlight was real terrible then. Great for primal darkness, bad for walking hair products commercials.

Angela waits to be acknowledged and dealt with while wearing the same stoic glower that she wore for most of the past encounter. Equally miraculous is that her clothing has avoided visible damp: a pair of slim-fit (for her, at least) gray dress trousers, a fitted white button-up shirt, and a pair of burgundy leather boots with neatly tied black laces.

At least some angels knock, even if making appointments still seems out of the question.


A balding middle-aged gangster with a body like a gumdrop and the nose of a concrete trowl looks up from losing at video poker when the woman knocks at the door. Our Italian friend, Mikey Fat Knuckles, trundles up to the door and looks up through the glass at Angela. He blinks at her a few times, looking genuinely confused.

Mikey looks back at Jackie. "Boss?"

Jackie doesn't look up from the paper. "Yeah?"

"Supermodel at the door."

The other gangsters look up to look at the striking sight. Jackie crinkles down his newspaper with an incredulous look on his face. He's surprised to see Angela.

Jackie pulls the lever on the side of the barber's chair, descending low enough to step back into his shoes. He drops the paper on his seat. "You can let her in, Mikey." Jackie raises his voice a little: "All youse guys go to the back."

Mikey lets Angela in, stepping aside to let her in. He holds the door, as a proper Italian gentleman does, and only looks at her ass when she's past him. He closes the door behind her and files off to the back, followed by the other gangsters who are variably polite about staring.

Jackie waits for the boys to go to the back before walking up to Angela. Neat trick, he thinks, noticing the lack of water trailing behind her.

"Welcome to my office," he says. "Can I get you a coffee or a water or whatever?"


Angela and Mikey Fat Knuckles spend a quality few moments staring at each other on separate sides of the glass. Unlike Mikey, Angela does not blink.

The redhead waits with supreme patience as the interior of the shop moves through the phases of confusion, gawking, and reacting. Her pale-irised gaze moves from a few points of interest until the gallant Mikey allows her indoors. She steps in, moving toward the end of the welcome mat to wait for Jackie's further acknowledgment. She is seemingly heedless of concepts like 'a guy named Mikey Fat Knuckles who hangs out in a barbershop is probably gonna look at your ass if you give him a chance.'

Angela has an affection for menswear, but she knows a tailor in the gayborhood.

The rest of the men file out. Angela is left with no one save Jackie to look at, and so she does.

"No."

Easy enough.

Angela steps off the welcome mat, glancing to the side to take in the length of the 'office' and its various decorations.

"I said I would find you and that we would speak. Here I am."

Angela looks back to Jackie. Her default intensity level takes most people awhile to get used to.

"Show me what is inside you."


Angela's excellent tailoring has allowed her to earn the quick esteem of Jackie, who refuses to wear anything that is not made for him. It does not suit a mob boss to wear a shitty, baggy suit. What does he look like, the President?

Angela doesn't want anything. Jackie doesn't push. It's a barber shop, with a few tables near the front used for board games, a stack of newspapers and magazines, and two rows of barber stations, most of which look vintage. This place used to be an active barber shop, but then it became Jackie's 'office.'

Jackie looks Angela in the eye. His emotions are much more obvious, as what you see with him tends to be what one gets. "Uh?" he says. "Like… like what do you mean? You want me to bring the Darkness out?"


"Hnn."

Angela takes a step closer. She is at the edge of Jackie's personal space now, but just outside. Her gaze drops to look him over, starting with his shoes and ending up at his eyes.

"That is what you call it. Yes."

Angela's expression shifts subtly, eyes narrowing as she studies the look of the man's face.

"Do you mean to barter for this? It will be an even trade of information."


Jackie holds his ground. He's not that easy to rattle, though Angela does have him ill-at-ease.

"Yeah," he decides. "Let's do an info trade, weird for weird. I'll bring the Darkness out, fuck, you can talk to it, it's an asshole. And if I do that, you can explain what your deal is. Weird for weird. You in?"


Angela is momentarily silent. She briefly looks upward, though she barely moves to do so. Perhaps it is more of a gesture than an actual desire to view the ceiling.

"I agree with an exception. On a singular topic, I am bound to secrecy lest it draw the attention of my enemies. You will find the rest of my explanation satisfactory."

Angela tilts her head, purses her lips to show an aspect of non-committal.

"Or we will trade further to cover the unpaid portion."


Jackie figures whatever horrible secret this woman has must be bad enough that he doesn't want to know it. "I accept your terms," he says. "Okay. This looks disgusting, so you're prepared, and I gotta walk back a few steps."

Jackie moves back toward the darker part of the barber shop, well away from the windows. He's standing clearly in the shadows as he folds his arms and concentrates.

Black sludge boils out of Jackie's shoulders, rolling onto itself to take the form of two long eel-like appendages that seamlessly protrude out from Jackie's back. The fanged eels have multiple rows of razor-sharp teeth and two rows of glowing red eyes, hissing as they snake out from Jackie's shoulders and come to rest at about elbow-level as they deploy.

The Darkness, as manifested by Jackie's tendrils, folds back its lips and hisses again at Angela. The Darkness has an awful wet-sounding voice. The sound has the audible quality of 'moist' by some extradimensional convergence.

"angel!! what do you want!!"

Jackie continues to stand there with his arms crossed. "I figured you knew her."

One of the tendrils writhes back and gets up into Jackie's face, the other one still looking at Angela warily.

"light creatures are not to be trusted"

"Yeah well, she didn't swing at me, so I'm gonna at least listen." Jackie looks past the Darkness back at Angela. "This is the Darkness. It sounds like the internet so good luck there."


Angela's continued lack of significant emotional expression hints that she is probably able to handle disgusting things. She stays put while Jackie adjusts his positioning to account for the splash zone. For all of her expressiveness, however, it is difficult to miss the canny gleam in her eyes as she observes the shadowed corner.

The Darkness comes. As foretold, Angela does not look disgusted. If anything her apparent interest grows. She glances from the tentacles to the floor, possibly measuring the reach to see if Jackie was making sure there would be no unplanned biting.

It speaks. Angela curls her lips back, partly exposing teeth that are predictably and perfectly white. She settles her gaze on the tentacle that's not giving Jackie some lip.

"I have experience with this internet," Angela assures Jackie in possibly the worst way to assure someone that you have experience with the internet.

"You speak too freely. If you are what you say you are, protect this place from prying eyes. There are watchers in the skies."


Jackie seems to be trying to minimize the Darkness' immediate ability to harm Angela, though realistically he's just giving Angela a better chance to dodge if it slipped his control. The Darkness can rework reality as it needs.

Jackie figures angels would speak funny so doesn't find Angela's statement any less reassuring than anything else she'd say. "Okay," he says. "You asked. I didn't want you to think like I was trying to do some trap bullshit to you, because I guess ''that' is a thing that happens."

Jackie lifts his right hand and concentrates. The world gets significantly darker. The exterior of the barbershop looks to be in the dead of night. Anything past the window is modeled only as a pencil line sketch. All the noises of New York City fade away.

Jackie makes a face, shaking out his hand as he lowers it. "Okay, we're not there any more."

The Darkness hisses, the eels contracting back over Jackie's shoulders like king cobras. Jackie is holding it still with a look of concentration on his face.

"You're not with the Angelus warriors, then," he says. "That's another problem I've had lately, that thing."


Angela holds her ground. As the light fades behind her, she waits until the shadows have evened out before glancing over her shoulder. She studies the unusual skyline with interest. Turning her head away from the Darkness' twin mouths may seem foolish, but her reaction times back during the park fight suggest that it is not such a risk to take.

"No," she says, looks back to Jackie. Her gaze flicks between the tentacles before she decides to speak directly to the man.

"I have heard tale of the Angelus and the Darkness. Ancient things. They have nothing to do with the true heavens."

The concentration on his face. Angela seems to be taking his measure, now. How easy this is for him, or how hard. These small silences between her statements stretch out the time.

"And neither do I. I am a hunter, but you may consider me freelance."

Another silence. Angela steps forward. Her interest in the hissing shadow is a shade on the aggressive side, it seems.

"So like a Spawn, and yet not. Interesting." Angela makes a low, thoughtful noise, but nothing comes of it directly. Instead: "You seem to know little. Shall I exposit from the beginning as it pertains to our situation?"


Jackie has to pay attention to the Darkness. It's unclear how much strain this is putting on him, but he has to concentrate. On what, though? The reality marble, or something else?

Jackie has no parochial interest in what the true heaven is. Whatever. God's done him no favors. The Darkness' eel faces convey contempt, but Jackie doesn't have strong affect on the topic.

"I like a good story," he says. "Like you're breaking out the proper nouns and sometimes this asshole tells me something," thumbing at the Darkness, "but I think I'm like a mushroom to this fuck." The Darkness hisses. Jackie ignores it. "Fortunately wizards tend to run their mouths a lot so I get lucky now and then. If you let me know things, I'll help you in an equal way. I like bein' helpful. Usually it's profitable."


For once, Angela seems genuinely bemused. It is one of the rare times that her expression softens, though 'what is that even' isn't very soft as emotions go. It's a start.

"A mushroom?" Angela thinks a moment further. "Perhaps this does not translate."

Angela turns away from Jackie, walking to the window. Something about the edges of this effect has drawn her again. Perhaps she is trying to see outside of it, to see if it can be pierced through whatever invisible methods she has at her command.

"I will begin with the park. You witnessed an assassination carried out by the servants of Gorr the God Butcher, who seeks to murder all divinities in every reality to ever exist."

Angela, for a moment, glances over her shoulder.

"You, I think, count."

Back to the window. "Gorr created a simulacrum of me after stealing my blood. I will find him, destroy him, and retake what he stole. I account for what is mine."

A pause. When Angela speaks again, her tone sounds distasteful. She saved it for this, but not the snappy darkness mouths.

"The Angelus was a pretender, perhaps born from the world where there is only light. From what you say, it remains a pretender. The stories my kind tell do not speak well of its motives. I am told it was a covetous thing whose servants sought to usurp the most high, which drew them a death sentence from hunters such as I. Same as the Spawn. Same as this Gorr, now."

Angela turns again, fully, standing silhouetted in the window. It shadows her face, but the paleness of her eyes makes them seem bright still.

"I came here to fulfill a promise and take back what a pagan god stole. I find myself now beset by annoyances that demand both my attention and my violent reply. If the Darkness is weakened enough to obey you, we may find common cause."


Jackie says things that must seem truly bizarre to Angela. He doesn't seem to think anything of it. People often give him that look. He credits it to his amazing charisma being able to soften just about anybody up.

The Darkness marble is somewhere adjacent to New York City, but not exactly. The sketch seems to be Jackie's shorthand for the area. Technically this is nowhere, but technically a lot of things are true.

Jackie seems surprised that he would count as divinity, but rapidly becomes at peace with this idea. Does it suck? Yes. Then it's probably true.

Angela's distaste for the Angelus seems to calm the Darkness. At least they can all hate the Angelus together, though the Darkness will likely quibble about details as it always does. Jackie tunes out when the Darkness starts talking about Cthulhu stuff. It isn't that helpful.

"It has to go along with me," Jackie says, clearly not saying all that he means but being truthful enough to pass Angela's ability to sniff out lies. "We don't always get along. But we like killing shit. Killing evil things and eating them makes the Darkness happy. I think evil tastes like Choco Tacos to it or something. I usually only taste copper."

"we would destroy the god butcher, the Darkness rasps. "we share an enemy, angel, perhaps MORE than one enemy…"

"So you're not gonna be a super asshole for like five minutes?" Jackie asks one of the tendrils.

"do not PRESUME," the Darkness starts hissing.

"Can we just do business like somebody normal?"

The Darkness makes an awful wet noise. "the enemy of our ENEMIES, JACKIE"

Jackie looks back at Angela. "That's as much a 'yes' as it gives me."


There's that canny look again, when Jackie touches on the idea of the Darkness going along with him. Though something about his phrasing has caught her, she lets it go without chasing elaboration. The Darkness is spitting-hissing up a gooey-wet storm, bringing a real touch of today's weather to this New York-flavored reality. How thoughtful.

Angela gives the tentacles an even look, or as even a look as one can give an eyeless mouth.

"Evil things," she repeats, testing the words out. "Choco Tacos. Hnn. Yes, from the stories, the Darkness would thirst for these evil Choco Tacos."

Angela purses her lips, considering. "Among others."

She does not reveal whether or not good tastes like Cookies & Cream Choco Tacos. Some information remains the sole purview of the celestial host.

Angela shifts her weight, changing the tone of her voice subtly to something more oratory. This indicates some kind of agreement being made.

"We will ally in destroying the self-called God Butcher," she says. "If there is need, and the partnership pleases both parties, we will discuss an equitable trade of services in the dispatching of our separate troubles."

Angela steps forward. She extends her hand. Jackie will have to drop the reality marble effect to meet her halfway, but it seems as if the time for such things has ended.

"Is it agreed?"


Jackie will probably discover the taste of Cookies and Cream Choco Tacos one day. But they're just not the same as cannoli.

Jackie notes the shift in tone and pays attention. Jackie hesitates, trying to figure out if he can hold the marble effect at the same time. Figuring he can't, Jackie dismisses the marble, along with the Darkness tendrils.

New York reasserts itself as he reaches out to give Angela an equitable handshake.

"Yeah," he says. "Let's do this up. We'll make a great team."


"A team," Angela considers anew. Her grip strength is predictably a terror.

Just a millions-of-years-old chaos entity, a mob boss, and an angel named Angela.

And probably that really gothy kid who cut herself.

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